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Alaskan visitors hope South's cooler than the weather

Service High of Anchorage meets South Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium

The hot September sun must have felt like a giant oven to the 46 Alaskan high school football players who set foot on Hawthorne Park on Wednesday afternoon in Medford.

Man, I think I'm dying, said linebacker Bart Lucas as he jogged off the field, slumped to the turf under the shade of a giant oak tree and began gulping water.

The players are from Anchorage-based Service High School, which meets South Medford at 7 p.m. Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium.

The team's 46 players, six coaches, three managers and 20 cheerleaders left Anchorage at — a.m. Wednesday and arrived in Medford at 8 a.m.

— Head coach Jason Caldarera wanted his team in Medford a couple of days early to see some sights and get acclimated to the warmer temperatures. But Wednesday's high of 95 degrees was a bit much for the cold-climate crew.

This is about 40 degrees warmer than we're used to, senior fullback Jason Staser said. I'm glad the game will be played at night.

The nonconference matchup between the two schools was arranged last winter after Klamath Union dropped out of the Southern Oregon Conference. South Medford needed another game and Service, a school with a winning tradition and some 2,500 students, was happy to oblige.

Traveling to the lower 48 states has become a regular routine for the Alaskan school. Service visited to Aztec, N.M., last year and over the past decade has ventured to Hawaii, Kent, Wash., Great Falls, Mont., and Las Vegas, Nev.

The trip to Medford cost the team about &

36;50,000, Caldarera said.

Each kid had to raise about &

36;800 and a lot of the businesses in Anchorage really came through, he said. This is a great experience for these kids.

Only 24 high schools play football in Alaska, but six of them are in Anchorage, and that makes for a competitive league, Caldarera said.

Service has been a state power, winning state championships in 1994, '97, '98 and '99, but enters Friday's contest with a 3-4 record.

However, all four of the Cougars' losses have come by a touchdown or less and they're coming off a 33-16 victory over Anchorage rival Dimond High.

We started off 2-0 and were ranked No. — in the state, Caldarera said. And then we just couldn't catch a break.

Service is led by quarterback Trevor Jones, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior who has passed for a school-record 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns, and the 6-3, 225-pound Staser, who has run for 750 yards and 12 scores.

Other players to watch include defensive tackle Jose Soto, strong safety A.J. Randall and wide receiver/free safety Anthony Jones, the Cougars' only two-way player.

Service runs a veer option offense with a little Wing-T mixed in.

With all the bad weather we get in Alaska, you've got to be able to run the football, Caldarera said.

With Service out of the playoff picture, Friday's game will be its last. The team started its season in July.

We're looking at this game as our playoff game, Caldarera said.

South Medford, meanwhile, is regrouping following the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fiegi, who was having a brilliant season until he broke his collarbone during last Friday's 34-6 victory over Crater.

Junior Jon Weaver, who led the Panthers most of the summer while Fiegi was playing basketball, is expected to start.

Freshman Kyle Singler is also expected to take some snaps.

This is a window of opportunity for Jon Weaver, head coach Bill Singler said. He throws decently, and he's also a threat to run the ball.

He has the ability to play at this level. It's just a matter of him gaining some confidence.

While the Panthers lost their starting quarterback, their defense continues to show improvement.

Singler has been especially happy with younger players such as inside linebacker Ben Koziol, end Rick Imhausen and strong safety Tony Desimone ' all sophomores ' and his freshman nephew, Kyle Singler. The younger Singler plays outside linebacker on defense.

All those kids are going to be impact players in a year or so, coach Singler said. They give us some speed and athleticism that we've been lacking on defense.

They're already making a difference.

Service High head coach Jason Caldarera addresses his team during a practice session Wednesday at Hawthorne Park in Medford. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven